Well, it seems like Christmas lights are everywhere this time of year, and we take them for granted. In fact, they started in Germany centuries ago with candles attached to an evergreen tree. Martin Luther is credited with adding candles to a Christmas tree in his house after seeing twinkling lights in the sky.
Lights on a tree make it a Christmas tree, but while the flickering candle flames were festive, they also posed a fire hazard. It took Thomas Edison, who of course invented the light bulb, to bring the Christmas tree lighting to where it is today.
In 1882 Edward Hibberd, an associate of Edison, saw an economic opportunity. Setting up a tree by the street side window of his living room, Johnson wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and strung them around the tree, placed the tree trunk on a revolving pedestal and called a reporter. who submitted the following: “At the back of the beautiful living room was a large Christmas tree with a most picturesque and strange aspect. The lights attracted a crowd who stopped to contemplate the luminous wonder.
A string of 16 flame-shaped light bulbs loosely sat in brass sockets the size of shot glasses sold for $ 12 (about $ 350 in today’s money) in 1900. But in 1894 , President Cleveland put electric lights on the White House tree, and by 1914, a 16-foot chain only cost $ 1.75. In the 1930s, Christmas lights were everywhere, and it all started with the Johnson miracle on 36th Street. (Source: December issue of Smithsonian Magazine.).
This brings me to tell what I think is a remarkable Arkansas Christmas light story. It all started in downtown El Dorado in the mid-1980s, the efforts led to a determined woman.
Let me explain to you what the central business district looked like before there were major Christmas lights in the city. In the early 1980s, downtown El Dorado only had a small handful of Christmas lights; in fact, it was about as naked as you can imagine. None of our municipal buildings or our courthouse had Christmas lights and the lampposts were not decorated for Christmas. There were only a few small Christmas lights in retail stores.
Councilor Vertis Mason, after visiting several towns in south central east Texas with elaborate white light fixtures on their courthouses, decided to try and get Christmas lights for our courthouse. downtown and other buildings. She first tried to get help from the local chamber of commerce for the lighting request, but was refused.
“Our entire budget is devoted to recruiting jobs,” he was told.
It could have stopped some people, but not Vertis. This only made her more determined and she raised $ 20,000 for the initiative in one week. This successful fundraiser kicked off a Christmas lighting campaign, which was eventually joined by the town of El Dorado, Union County, Main Street, the Chamber of Commerce and various traders and owners who came together, and by the time the fundraiser was over, well over $ 100,000 had been raised.
However, instead of just lining up the lights, a national lighting display company was hired to come up with recommendations and lighting designs. Today, the lights you see on downtown buildings, the courthouse, town hall, the viaduct (or via-dock, as it is locally called) and in dozens of buildings across the downtown are there because of the recommendations and designs of this company. The general red and green theme using C-9 bulbs is not the preference of any individual. These colored bulbs are what was recommended.
When the lighting design company first came to town, their first order of business was to emphasize that you need to have a theme, and since the main downtown building is the courthouse, their comment was that it is too big for small white lights. To make it as Christmas as possible and to get the best visual results, they recommend red and green big
C-9, and they designed extra-large drapes of predominantly red and green displays for the courthouse, city hall, and central fire station.
Additionally, they encouraged downtown landowners to add strings of red and green C-9 bulbs to the top of their
building, awnings and windows. The red and green theme was unanimously approved by the City, County, House, Main Street, and the Downtown Merchants Association.
Today, if anyone in the central business district needs light bulbs or fairy lights, they can contact Teresa, Our Lady of Light Bulbs.
After the Christmas lighting design team finished their work in the central business district, they encouraged the city to extend the theme of red and green lights to the city’s main entrance street, West Avenue, by placing the red and green string lights on. selected lighting poles. They also encouraged avenue malls to add red and green Christmas lights to their street light poles in major shopping areas.
The company’s initial design featured the large, bright red and green poinsettias on the via-dock.
As the red and green Christmas lights rolled in, all of the major landowners and businesses participated. Murphy Oil, Murphy USA, Potlatch-Deltic, First Financial Bank and Bancorp South led the group. Not only did all of the companies mentioned above have red and green lights to highlight the roofs of their buildings, most of them have added significant rooftop displays.
Of course, a global project like this is never finished, but this year we have taken an important step. Over 90% of our courthouse plaza has red and green lighting, and many people who live on the streets connected to downtown have added red and green lights to their lighting displays.
Of course, with this Christmas lights display, you have to have a lighting ceremony to mark the official lighting up of El Dorado holiday displays. On November 18, the Thursday before Thanksgiving week, several thousand people gathered on the east side of the courthouse for the ceremony, which featured dancers, choirs and flipped the switch, which turned on the
huge lighting screen of the courthouse. The “postman,” Karl Malone flipped the switch and the courthouse lights came on as everyone cheered. It started the holiday season with a dazzling Christmas lighting display.
The set of lighting was such a success that many additions to enhance the downtown holiday spirit were added, and most observers see the success of the lights as a major step in getting others moving. things.
Earlier in the fall, Main Street El Dorado added Bluetooth speakers to downtown street lights, which are
already wrapped in green and red fairy lights, and during the holiday season these speakers play Christmas music
Main Street also started painting crosswalks with large, colorful designs, and MAD has joined in a life-size replica of an oil derrick, and yes, it has red and green lighting. Another addition to holiday lighting is the edge of
downtown area where the largest lighted Christmas tree in the state is located. The TV tower hangs from the top of the tower with Christmas fairy lights.
You can’t have more Christmas than downtown El Dorado.
Richard Mason is an author and lecturer. He can be contacted at [email protected]